by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
See if you can spot the crime in this anecdote:
“One of the highlight moments was on Saranac Lake when we were in a canoe and we were taking a canoe trip and out of nowhere from one of the islands an eagle came out and like swooped down right next to us with this beautiful, graceful glide,” [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo said while speaking at the historic Hotel Saranac.
“And when the eagle was just about at the front of the canoe, one feather fell out, and we picked up that feather and I have it on my fireplace to this day.”
Not sure yet? It’s a serious violation of federal law. It carries a fine of $100,000.
OK, here it is: “we picked up that feather.”
I’m serious! Cuomo is not a member of a federally protected Indian tribe. He can’t do that. It’s a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Cuomo is also not a federally incentivized wind turbine, so he’s not permitted by the U.S. government to kill bald and golden eagles indiscriminately for 30 years, but that’s another story.
I’m not making this up.
What Cuomo’s experience shows is how desperately we need to restore mens rea protection in federal and state laws and administrative codes. Cuomo nor his daughter had any criminal intent in mind when they picked up a feather. They did as pretty much any of us would in the same situation.
Preventing this kind of nonsense — that is, restoring freedom from overcriminalization and unnecessarily oppressive enforcement of the law — is precisely why I and my colleagues at the John Locke Foundation promote mens rea reform.